The new Hyundai Genesis in US specification made its debut in Detroit earlier this year and will be launched in limited numbers later this year in some global markets.
It’s aiming to build significantly on the first gen car, which launched back in 2008. For the money, that car offered loads of features, but the lack of optional all-wheel drive and no right-hand drive limited sales. Less-than-stellar chassis dynamics and interior detailing didn’t help, either.
It’s clear the company is fully aware of the original car’s shortcomings and that’s why the new car makes greater use of high-strength steel and structural adhesives to help give it superior body rigidity to the Mercedes-Benz E-class and BMW 5-series.
The carmaker even hired Lotus Engineering for chassis tuning validation. Interior quality has been improved and all-wheel drive is optional in some markets.
The carmaker wants the new car to be more than a bargain-price luxury car. It sees it going head to head with the best in the business.
It is quiet and refined – at least on smooth roads, and is definitely more in the luxury vein of an SE-spec E-class, however, rather than the dynamic world of a Jaguar XF.
On rougher asphalt, it loses composure and the rear suspension crashes over potholes, while the electric steering is linear but offers little feel. It also lacks the straight-line stability of the Benz. It’s a shame because the basic chassis has great potential, the car is very neutral in smooth, fast corners and it resiliently resists understeer, even when pushed.
In some markets, it will receive unique suspension tuning, which will hopefully address some of the handling issues.
We drove a rear-wheel-drive, 3.8-litre petrol V6 coupled to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The engine develops good power and is refined as long as it isn’t pushed too hard, but the fuel economy is nearly 10 percent off that of a BMW 535i and the Hyundai lacks the low-end shove of the turbocharged 5-series.
Inside, the Korean company has worked closely with its suppliers to make sure the buttons and controls have consistent feel and weight. Our test car's top-spec 16-way adjustable seats are extremely comfortable and trimmed in rich quality leather. Rear-seat room is also excellent.
The large central navigation screen features a 720p HD display and can be controlled via touchscreen or an iDrive-like rotary controller. You can also sweep across the 233mm-wide screen like a smart phone. Also of note is the ventilation and air-con system, which uses the industry’s first CO2 sensor to help prevent drowsiness and reduce fatigue.
Overall, it’s an impressive interior. The only real let-downs are some sub-par plastic trim, intrusive headrests and slightly wayward scattering of buttons.
The addition of right-hand drive and a luxurious interior with tonnes of technology and safety features make it a worthy halo car for the Korean brand.
If the suspension tuning is sorted before arriving on these shores, the Genesis could make for an earnest and idiosyncratic alternative to established luxury saloons. Throw in a competitive diesel engine and Hyundai’s wish to take on the class best wouldn’t be too far off.